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Monday, July 29, 2013

5 Things Publishers Can Learn from Benjamin Franklin

I'm so enjoying Benjamin Franklin's biography by Walter Issacson. We hear so much about Franklin, but until you read about his life in detail, the complexity and breath of his life is hard to imagine.

One of the things I was surprised about was how industrious he was in the area of publishing. And as I have read the biography, I have pulled out a few lessons that publishers can learn from his approach:

  1. Getting direct access to publishing and distribution infrastructure is key.
    Franklin had his own press and wrestled away the role of Postmaster for Philadelphia from one of his competitors. This gave him the ability to quickly print and distribute his content to his audience. Today we don't need to own our own presses, but we need direct and fast access to the production of product in such a way that we can act quickly as opportunities arise.
  2. Don't wait for good content to come to you...seek it out!
    Franklin identified the talent and message of George Whitefield, the Great Awakening preacher, and worked with him to publish most of his sermons and other resources in America. Franklin built a friendship with Whitefield even though they did not agree on spiritual matters.
  3. Create interesting content internally.
    Franklin developed these anonymous characters who he used to talk about various topics and issues. Many of them were very humorous and were able to say things that others could or would not say. His use of these characters created very interesting and eye-catching content that kept the colonies enthralled.
  4. Care about issues and allow your publishing to challenge the status quo.
    Franklin was not afraid of dealing with the difficult issues. Now, as I described above, he did it many times through a concocted third party. But he published controversial ideas and new thinking. He did not allow the establishment to define what would be acceptable to publish. This made his content fundamentally different from the content of others. It also made him a trusted voice among the people.
  5. Diversify your work so that a variety of revenue streams can carry your efforts forward.
    Franklin was an entrepreneur. He was a talent agent, a printer, a publisher, an author, a scientist, a politician and an organizer. Each of these things had a revenue stream and each one added to his ability to engage his community.
I hope these ideas are helpful as you strive to innovate in publishing space.

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